WRITTEN ON March 20th, 2013 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Bacon, Beans, Dinner, French, Holiday, Pork

This latest installment in the Mommy Wars has me fired up and feeling the need to vent a little.

Oh, hi. Remember me? Caterer turned recipe blogger turned stay at home mom who left you all for months to lap up every second with my kid? Right. Glad we got that awkward re-entry over with…

I recently read the latest New York Magazine cover article. At first, I was thrilled. It finally seemed as though someone was looking at this whole working/stay at home mom/leaning in/not having it all/having it all debate from a fresh perspective. One that was similar to mine.

The idea that some women don’t feel as though they have to choose between their career and their family. They want to choose.

Sadly, the article ended up once again ridiculing one woman’s choice to leave her career and stay home. The writer clearly had a “gotcha” agenda from the very beginning, and by the middle of the piece her bias was pretty clear.

By now you all are fairly familiar with my background (though I daresay it’s been so damn long since I’ve posted anything, you’ve probably forgotten I exist, and I don’t blame you!) – several years working in the pharmaceutical industry, followed by culinary school in NYC and two plus years working as a caterer, both freelance and privately.

While I loved many aspects of the food service biz (and few aspects of pharmaceuticals), I never felt as though I wanted to have twenty gourmet shops throughout the city, or work every single night and weekend from here to eternity to become millionaire caterer to the stars.

When I was at Forest Laboratories, I was never starry-eyed over the life of our female head of marketing. She was an incredibly impressive woman, and I still have a huge amount of respect for her. But she (and all the other male department heads, incidentally) seemed perpetually on the go, pulled every direction. I’d fill in for her assistant on occasion in my early days there, and her calendar was overwhelming in a way that depressed me rather than thrilled me. She actually had to schedule, in advance, time to see her kids, and time to speak to her husband on the phone.

This never seemed exciting to me. Even as a young single girl in the city, with time to devote to my career and a need for more cash, I never had dreams of being the CEO. Does this make me less of a person? A disappointment to all those working women who came before me? Less valuable – more shallow? I never thought so. But lately I listen to these debates, and read comments on the internet and I realize that a) there is a special kind of resentment towards college educated women who don’t work outside the home and b) much of the world views me as a totally superfluous ninny.

Awesome.

I decided to stay at home with my son because it is what works best for my family. I will not offer any further explanation, because that implies that I actually have to explain my choices to others who are entirely unaffected by them. I would never, have never, asked a woman who made a different choice to explain herself. I have friends who stay at home, friends who work, friends who make the lions share of the income, friends who work at home, friends who stay at home AND have nannies. Look, in my opinion, a happy mommy means a happy home. Do what works best for your family…I ain’t mad at ya.

And yet I feel as though increasingly, those women who decide to make family and home their career (I will not say priority, as I truly believe that most women who go to an office every day still prioritize family first) are viewed as somehow letting down entire generations of their gender. As if staying home to raise your child is now akin to mooching off of society and the backs of other stronger, smarter, more valiant women.

Lest this become too meandering a manifesto, I will simply say this: can’t we all just get along?

We are supposed to teach our kids kindness. To be non-judgemental. To accept lifestyles different from our own with grace and respect. And yet we, their own mothers, are in-fighting and back stabbing and dumping all over each others choices. How sad.

My real choice? To be happy. To put my efforts into making sure that I feel satisfied and fulfilled each day, and to worry less about what the world (and Gloria Steinem, and some writer at New York magazine, and some jackass in the comments section) think about my choices. To try my hardest to help populate this Earth with happy, well adjusted, kind people who love well. To stop wondering if I can “have it all” (what a self-absorbed, upper middle class “problem”) and start focusing on the things that I do have. What if we all tried it? Maybe it seems naïve. Or maybe, just maybe, it really is that simple.

Not every woman can be the next Sheryl Sandberg, Anne Marie Slaughter, or Marissa Mayer. More importantly, not every woman wants to be the next Sheryl Sandberg, Anne Marie Slaughter, or Marissa Mayer. Does that make us less interesting? Less worthy? Our lives and choices less valid? I guess that’s your call. But while the world spews its judgement, I have a life to live, a kid to raise, and dinner to make. Join me. Let’s eat.

Time to eat

Highly Ambitious Duck Cassoulet (Serves 4)

This sounds high falutin’, but it’s actually French comfort food at its best. Don’t let the name scare you. It’s delicious and perfect for a Sunday night meal or a special occasion when you want to show someone you really, really love them. Serve with a nice Pinot Noir or Cotes du Rhone, a crusty baguette and a green salad with dijon vinaigrette.

1 lb dried Great Northern beans

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 medium sized onions, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes

1 bay leaf

2 leafy sprig parsley, plus 1 large handful chopped

3 thyme sprigs

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

3 cups water

4 legs duck confit (such as D’Artangnan, or make your own)

1/3 lb slab bacon, cut into cubes

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cups breadcrumbs fresh from a baguette or panko

½ cup freshly grated parmiggiano reggiano cheese (this is not a traditional French ingredient in cassoulet, but then, I ain’t French)

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the beans: Rinse beans well – I do not soak my beans. I find that it makes them mushy once cooked. Place in a large heavy pot, cover with water, broth, tomato paste, chopped celery, carrot, onion, half of the chopped garlic, bay leaf, parsley sprig and thyme. Season very lightly with salt and pepper (remember that your water is going to cook down into the beans, so if you season too heavily with salt when the water is high, your beans will end up tasting like salt lick once the water has evaporated). Bring to a boil, then reduce right away to a simmer. Simmer until just barely tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, cook about 10 minutes more.

Prepare the duck and bacon: remove all skin and fat from duck legs, and pull them into large pieces. Add duck bones to beans cooking. Set aside. Cook bacon cubes in olive oil, reserving fat. Set bacon aside with duck.

Prepare topping: In reserved bacon fat, lightly sauté the rest of the garlic about 1 minute. Add breadcrumbs, stirring to make sure that they are evenly coated with fat and golden brown. Add parsley, cheese, salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Assemble and bake: Remove duck bones, thyme, parsley sprigs and bay leaf from beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in duck and bacon. Pour entire mixture into a large casserole dish, top with breadcrumbs. Bake in oven about 1 hour.

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